Ten years ago, I had an assignment to draw a picture of myself as a child from my mind’s eye. What did I see when I reflected on that little girl? I drew a girl, sitting down, knees pulled to chest, arms wrapped tightly around her legs, face solemn. It was a visual of restraint and fear. It was the embodiment of how I have lived my life, and I don’t think I really understood the depth that that picture captured until recently. The tentativeness, the withdrawn posture, the unwillingness to shine and live my story. It was almost as if I was in my own protective carapace.
I wish I had kept that sketch because I know she still lives in me even though I am learning to break free of the fear she firmly rooted herself in so long ago. I’d frame it and hang it where I could see her every day. I’m learning to celebrate her as an integral part of my life, but I am acknowledging that the process of breaking free of her is at once frightening and challenging and rewarding and energizing.
Tomorrow is my first running race of the year, and even though I am supposed to be approaching it as a training run, my heart knows that I need to shift that perspective a bit. Simply finishing isn’t really an acceptable goal outcome anymore, not for a 14k race. At this point, both in my life and in training and racing, settling for a basic finish versus a challenging goal is allowing me to underperform. It is the little girl tugging at my cuffs, pulling me back into the safety of her shell. Setting minimal-effort goals is sinking into the sticky mess of fear. It is a quicksand that envelopes me and holds me in place, and it is one reason why I still have a half-marathon PR from 2008.
As I was talking about tomorrow’s race goals with a friend, I was stuck in that quicksand. I was hesitant to even state a goal when she asked because then there was the chance and the fear of failure. As we were chatting, I realized I had had the same conversation with myself in the pool earlier today, and I decided to ignore the fear and swim hard, focus on improvement, and to stop allowing a perceived weakness hold me back.
Tomorrow’s race will be no different. In the pool today, I acknowledged something about myself: I am more than all of these fears that have wallpapered my life. I am no longer the scared little girl. I am strong. I am dedicated and invested. I am capable and creative. I am brave and courageous and beaming with brilliance and possibility. Every training run, every swim, every race, every moment of my days need to be lined with these words; they need to frame each moment because anything less than that is old-hat, fear-based living at work. Will I sometimes forget and fall short? Of course, but they are always there as pillars.
Goals for tomorrow’s race:
- A (ideal outcome): Finish time of 1:25, a 9:45 overall pace
- B (great outcome): Finish time of 1:26, a 9:53-9:59 overall pace
- C (everything falls apart, but I still stay composed): Finish time of 1:29, a 10:14 overall pace
- start slow and run negative splits.
- not evaluate the race during the race. (Think grace and gratitude, like Augusta 70.3.)
- squelch the scared girl and keep running.
- smile, especially at the race cameras.
- fight for my race.
- celebrate each mile and not allow one to impact the next.
- and most importantly, shine.
And I’ll be there at the finish to root for Jon who is running his first race, the 6k. We ran together for the first time last weekend. He is going to do a great job!